Playwright's Note for Mortal Folly Theatre's Production of OVER HERE @ The 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival
Below is my Playwright's Note for the program of Mortal Folly Theatre's production of Over Here for the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival. I am reproducing it here as the play is getting a fair amount of press, and I am frequently asked about it in relation to current events.
As some of you know, I became an Artistic Associate of Whistler in the Dark Theatre in late 2011 after numerous collaborations. Part of what this means is that I have the ability to initiate projects through the organization.
I'm currently curating two ongoing projects that are near and dear to my interests: the Playwright Incubator Program and the Schollah Holla Project.
I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the Schollah Holla Project, as it has already had public events, and as we have one more Holla coming up soon as part of our programming for our production of Vinegar Tom (January 27th for those of you intending to come).
Shooting An Abuse Prevention Video for IMPACT: Ability - Acting On Camera In Somewhat Unusual Circumstances
Not very long ago I shot an abuse-prevention training video/PSA at Triangle Inc with Ablevision as part of their new IMPACT: Ability program.
The last time I acted on camera was a little over a year ago for Malarkey Films, which in turn was the first time I'd done that in several years. That shoot involved a stuffed monkey puppet and a gas mask. This project however, had a significantly more serious tone.
It was great to be a performer again, as very few other arts have the same degree of immediate gratification. I had almost forgotten how fun it is.
This however, was not a typical shoot...
On the Continuing Evolution of a Script: My Reading of BURNING UP THE DICTIONARY with Vagabond Theatre Group
Graphic by Alison McDonough
Last month I had the pleasure of having a public staged reading of my new full-length play, Burning Up the Dictionary, performed with Vagabond Theatre Group. This took place at Trident Booksellers & Cafe as part of their "There Will Be Words" reading series.
Before I say much more I do have to point out that I was very amused to have a play that's largely about language appear in a series called "There Will Be Words."
Readings are a step in the development of a new play. I once discussed this process with a computer programmer friend and we realized that we had something significant in common: neither playwrights nor programers really know what they've done until they get to see it running. The staged reading is a sort of a test run of a play wherein the writer can figure out what changes they intend to make as the work evolves.
This was the first time I've heard the play in its entirety in front of an audience. I did have the privilege of a table reading of an earlier full draft at the Lark Play Development Center this past November (which I blogged about here) and I got to hear a chunk of it at a Small Theatre Alliance reading back in September (which I also blogged about) after earlier development through Playwrights' Commons' Summer Playground. All three were really useful experiences, and the script has come a long way because of them, but this last piece was a larger step as it was an opportunity for me to evaluate the current (more advanced) draft under more public conditions and figure out what to do with it next.
This coming Valentine's Day there will be a staged reading of the opera libretto that I co-wrote with Silvia Graziano based on the Marquis de Sade's novel, Justine (an alternate version was called The Misfortunes of Virtue). This reading will be directed by Christie Gibson and once again hosted by Fort Point Theatre Channel and the poster you're looking at was designed by Cara Grace.
We recently realized it would be helpful to hear it out loud again. Plus, what can be more appropriate for Valentine's Day?
This is one more step in a project that's been a long time in the making...
In the past few days I've had three major projects come to fruition: my round table of Burning Up the Dictionary at the Lark Play Development Center, my devised piece, Ghosts of Hamlet in Something Rotten: Hamlet Remixed at the Boston Center for the Arts, and my talk as an alumni speaker at TEX: Tufts Idea Exchange. In the middle of all of this, I did the fights for The Nutcracker at Stoneham Theatre and continued my work on The Miracle Worker at Salve Regina University.
TEX will most likely get its own blog post some time after the videos are posted online. So I'd like to discuss the new plays, Burning Up the Dictionary and Ghosts of Hamlet. One piece is a fairly straightforward full length play, the other is a short piece of devised experimental theatre.
Let's start with the less conventional of the two:
The Same Thing, Only Different: On the Mutability of the Play Text in Performance
I've been thinking lately about ephemerality of performance and mutability of texts. And how a play is completed not on paper but in performance. All of this is very Theatre 101 of course. But as theatre on the whole is not performed for "'experts" but for audiences, it bears repeating.
A few of my current and recent fight directing projects are plays that I've done previously in other venues (or, in the case of Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, contain pieces of plays I've done in other contexts). In the case of Romeo & Juliet, I've done that play so many times I can pretty much recite the dialogue around the fight scenes as well as all the commentary about how the characters might fight that takes place in other scenes.
A question I've been getting a lot is whether I just recycle choreography when I repeat plays.
That would be a resounding No.
The actors are different, the space is different, and most importantly, the director's vision is never the same. Then there are also the logistical factors. How much time are they planning to spend composing and rehearsing the fights? A production with a three month rehearsal period, plenty of time to train, and a commitment to rehearse diligently will have different ambitions for a fight scene than a company with less time and money for the same play. A production set in the Italian Renaissance will very likely have Mercutio and Tybalt face off with rapier and dagger, where the post-apocalyptic version may go with chainsaws (I am waiting for that version to happen).
Context shapes the presentation of text. This is something you learn in any branch of theatre. As a writer, if you're fortunate enough to see multiple productions/workshops/readings of the same play, you get a feel for what has fluidity and what has consistency.
By way of example, here are three videos of the same monologue. Two are performed by my friend and collaborator Zillah Glory, the third was performed at Brooklyn College as part of the Gi60 short play festival a little over a year ago:
Something Remixed This Way Comes...
Words in the theatre are but a design on the canvas of motion. - V. Meyerhold
This is the graphic for a little something I have in the works with Whistler in the Dark Theatre and Imaginary Beasts as part of the Double, Double Toil and Trouble: A Witches Brew of Shakespeare Remixed series that's coming up (this is in addition to my participation as fight director of Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, which has been a great time so far).
I am creating a piece as part of this:
This past Monday I took part in a Small Theatre Alliance of Boston Open Mic Night at the Charlestown Working Theater. I brought in a section of a new full length play I'm working on called Burning Up the Dictionary, which I'm billing as "a story of language, love, lust and loss." I'll be having a round table of the entire thing at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City next month, so this was a great opportunity to test-drive a section of it in front of an audience and see how things play in front of an audience as I work on it in preparation for the Lark. I've been developing it through the Playwrights' Commons/Company One Playwrights' Playground this past summer (which was quite a blessing), but this was the first time I'd heard it in front of an audience as opposed to workshop participants.
This entry will be a long one. But the events are well worth recording.
About ten days ago I returned to Boston from one of my best creative and collaborative experiences in a long time. I am a person who really enjoys what I do, so these are strong words.
What I am talking about here is the Playwrights' Commons Freedom Arts Retreat. This was organized by our Fearless Leader, Cruise Director, and Theatre Facilitator Extraordinaire, Ilana Brownstein. The participants besides myself were Philip Berman, Amanda Coffin, Allie Herryman, Colleen Hughes, Emily Kaye Lazzaro, Tyler Monroe, Corianna Moffatt, Nina Morrison, and Jason Weber. I knew very few of the other participants going in, and no one very well. If I may be gushy for a moment, it would be very easy to go through all of these names individually and sing their praises as artists and collaborators. Instead I will praise the synergy created by bringing everyone together and tasking us with creating new work collaboratively.
Taking Note & Taking Notes
Meron Langsner, PhD
Playwright, Theatre & Performance Scholar, Fight Director/Movement Specialist, Director, Educator
- About Meron
- Blog: Taking Note and Taking Notes
- Theatre & Performance Scholar and Dramaturg
- Fight Director/Movement Specialist for Theatre, Opera, & Film
- In-Class Group Exercise Based on MARISOL
- In-Class Group Exercise for CLOUD NINE & BLASTED
- Class Exercise: Muppets, Casting, & Shakespeare
- Sample Assignment: Towards a Dramaturgy of Stage Combat
- The Cinematographer Exercise: Introducing Non-Contact Blows
- Dramaturgy Prompt Assignment
- Selected Comments from Student Course Evaluations
- Contact Meron